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'Under' something

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Rowan
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'Under' something

Post by Rowan » Tue July 17th, 2012, 3:05 pm

I know someone on here will know the answer to my question. I'm not quite sure how to search on Google to find the answer I need and the one site I expected to have the answer missed the bar.

I've noticed that some English towns/cities have the word 'under' in them, like Newcastle-under-Lyme. What does the 'under' signify?

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Post by Vanessa » Tue July 17th, 2012, 3:51 pm

I think 'under Lyne' means it was built near a forest. There is a Newcastle upon Tyne, too, (a different place entirely) which means it was built near or on/over a river.
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Post by SGM » Tue July 17th, 2012, 5:15 pm

The origin in this particular instance seems to be obscure. But here is a link from the local government site which gives some possibly reasons.

http://www.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk/Docu ... gesses.pdf.
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Post by Rowan » Tue July 17th, 2012, 6:53 pm

I found previous explanations for both the Newcastle part and the Lyme part, but nothing as to what the 'under' refers to.


Further research (with the right wording) provided, Ashton-under-Lyne, and while there is no clear meaning available regarding 'under-Lyne', according to the Wikipedia article it could possibly have something to do with elm and the Ashton part has something to do with ash trees. And since 'under-Lyme' is thought to refer to lime trees that once flourished in the forest, I think I will go with the meaning that the town sprang up under certain trees. Likewise, the only other town I could find with 'under' in it was Wotton-under-Edge and, again, there's reference to trees in the 'Wotton'.

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Post by SGM » Tue July 17th, 2012, 9:23 pm

Here is the link to the English Place Name Society. There are others but you can contact this group and they will doubtless answer your query. If you are really desparate to find out then I suggest you email them. If they can't help, I am sure they will be able to forward you to another organisation with further information.

http://kepn.nottingham.ac.uk/map/place/ ... der%20Lyme

I think many years ago we used to have a book on this subject and I have a vague recollection it was a Readers Digest publication but I was quite young and my memory might be faulty and I certainly no longer have it to hand.

Ash quite often implies a forestry connection, as with Ashdown in Sussex and Ashridge. But it is not always safe to make assumptions because there is sometimes a family name connection also with places and a place name can be a mixture of description plus family name, ie Apsley Guise or Milton Bryan. So if you cannot find a reliable book on the subject, the Place Name Society is a fairly good bet.
Last edited by SGM on Tue July 17th, 2012, 9:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Elizabeth » Tue July 17th, 2012, 11:35 pm

In my much-loved Online Etymology Dictionary, I found this in the entry under (heh) "under":

"Also used in O.E. as a preposition meaning "between, among," as still in under these circumstances, etc. (though this may be an entirely separate root; see understand)."

So perhaps the "under" came about when the meaning of "among" was still used, which would make more sense when referring to trees.
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Post by Rowan » Wed July 18th, 2012, 3:48 am

Thanks Elizabeth!! That makes total sense.

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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed July 18th, 2012, 4:14 am

Germany has the towns of Oberammergau (town 'over' the valley) and Unterammergau (town 'under' the valley). Perhaps if there was some towering landmark, cliff or hill nearby, it might be called [town name] under [landmark name]

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Post by Carla » Wed July 18th, 2012, 10:25 am

My dictionary of place names agrees with Vanessa. It says in the entry for Ashton-under-Lyne that
" 'under' means 'near' "

The dictionary is: Room A. Dictionary of Place Names. Bloomsbury, London, 1993. ISBN 0-7475-1511-5.
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